Ballet - Turns Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Ballet - Turns

1 Conversation

In this Entry you will find descriptions of some of the main turns in ballet. As noted in the Basic Positions entry it is the Russian Method that is being described. As well as these, most steps can be made into a turn by adding the instruction 'en tournant' which means turning.

But first:


The ability to 'spot' is necessary for a dancer to prevent them from getting dizzy whilst doing multiple turns, and also helps keep them located whilst turning and not go wandering off. It involves the dancer trying to keep their head still for as much of the turn as possible. This is done by picking a point to look at and keeping the head facing that way until the last moment and then whipping it around back to that same point.

Now the turns themselves:


Quite a simple turn, stepping from one foot to another as the dancer turns. Both feet stay up on demi or full pointe throughout as the dancer turns. As these are quite simple and small turns they are generally done in multiples as a travelling move. For this turn the arms are generally held in first position or third position. As with any turn or movement this can be changed by the choreographer to suit.


Similar to chaîné but has an extra down step in between turns. The dancer steps up onto demi or full pointe in a half turn, the next foot steps and completes the turn, then the dancer comes down from pointe, before stepping up for the next turn. The arms are the same as with the chaîné.


Probably the first turn that comes to mind when thinking of ballet. The pirouette usually starts in either fourth or fifth position, pilé relevé on to the supporting leg and the working leg held with the knee out to the side and the foot under the knee (pirouette position). For this turn the arms prepare with one arm in third position and one in second position. The arm that starts in third is the one that the body is turning towards. As the turn is started the arm in second comes into third position to help with momentum.


Well known for the mighty task of 32 fouettés the ballerina has to complete in Swan Lake. To fouetté is to whip. The dancer whips their leg out and around and then brings it in to the passé position, this gives the turn momentum. The arms for this turn are generally the same as for pirouettes.


Posé means to step, so you step on to the supporting leg and the working leg goes to the passé position as you turn. When en pointe it is very much a case of stepping up onto the supporting leg. Again the arms for this turn are generally the same as for pirouettes.

Lame Duck

Lame duck is like the posé turn but with an extra 'down' step in between. You step out with the working leg, then step up on to the supporting leg and turn with the working leg in passé position. Again the arms for this turn are generally the same as for pirouettes.


An arabesque generally has the forward arm and working legs at 90 degrees to the body, in an arabesque turn they are still in line but the leg is at a lower angle to make the turn more manageable.

En Attitude

This is like the arabesque turn but with the leg held in attitude1 and with attitude arms (either attitude ordinaire or attitude opposition).

1The working leg raised, with a 90 degree bend.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Edited by

h2g2 Editors

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more